Among the religious right pastors who have essentially sold their souls to Donald Trump, Lance Wallnau is in a class by himself. This is a man who has warned us that opposing Trump opens the door for the devil to get in your house, and believes Russia had every right to hack the election. But if there was any doubt that Wallnau has thrown his scruples out the window, it was erased earlier this week when he rushed to the defense of a gaggle of far-right “patriots” impersonating United States Border Patrol agents.
Last weekend, The New York Times turned the hot lights on United Constitutional Patriots, a gaggle of armed vigilantes that had set up camp in Sunland Park, New Mexico–a popular border crossing due to its close proximity to El Paso on the American side and Juarez on the Mexican side. UCP members confronted migrant families crossing into the United States in hopes of seeking asylum, then detained them before handing them over to the Border Patrol.
The sight of armed men collaring already traumatized migrants at the border would be disconcerting enough by itself. Indeed, the American Civil Liberties Union had demanded that New Mexico officials do something about a group that it described as “fascists” and “racist and armed vigilantes.” In response, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and state attorney general Hector Balderas put the UCP on notice that it has no authority to make arrests.
But Daily Kos’ David Neiwert took a look at some of the videos uploaded by UCP members, and noticed that they were actually representing themselves as Border Patrol agents. Take this Facebook video shot by UCP member Jim Benvie, which Neiwert mirrored here.
Benvie is seen “greeting” migrants by saying, “Alto! U. S. Border Patrol!” and interrogating them. So these “patriots” have no qualms about impersonating law enforcement. Regardless of where you stand on immigration, this is out of bounds.
If that isn’t enough, UCP counts some very, very, very dangerous people among its ranks. That became clear on Saturday, when FBI agents arrested one of UCP’s top leaders, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. It turns out Hopkins has a lengthy record of felony convictions in Michigan, Montana and Idaho, and had been arrested in 2006 in Oregon for impersonating an officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He pled no contest to the impersonation charge and guilty to the firearms charge.
The FBI had been looking for Hopkins since finding guns in his house in 2017. However, he managed to drop off the radar screen until he and his UCP buddies touted their activities on Facebook. Hmmm, you would think that if you knew the feds are on your tail, posting videos to Facebook in which you’re holding yourself out as law enforcement isn’t the brightest idea.
But when Wallnau got wind of Hopkins’ arrest, he didn’t see a dangerous felon being taken off the streets. He saw a man protecting his country.
Um, Lance? These aren’t just “frustrated citizens.” These are men who have no qualms about confronting migrants at gunpoint, and are even willing to misrepresent themselves as Border Patrol agents. And these are men who apparently have no qualms about allowing dangerous felons in their ranks. And you’re defending them?
Even if you are a hardliner on illegal immigration, there is no defending the tactics that the UCP is using here. And there is no defending their lack of qualms about having a man with a rap sheet as long as Hopkins’ rap sheet in their number.
Wallnau’s full name is Lance Whitaker Wallnau. But it’s been clear for some time that he ought to change his middle name to Armstrong. After all, he shares Lance Armstrong’s complete and utter lack of moral fiber of any sort. And now he’s defending armed vigilantes who pose as Border Patrol agents and have dangerous convicted felons in their ranks? Let there no longer be any doubt–Wallnau is not a man of God.
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